Learning and serving in the city of Detroit

Just like its hometown, the Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is a melting pot. It’s one of a mere handful of PharmD schools nationwide that is housed — both physically and administratively — alongside degree programs in other health professions. Students and faculty in these disciplines naturally mingle and collaborate, especially when it comes to the health of their neighbors.

“Detroit is a diverse and rewarding training ground for our students. It’s easy to fall in love with this community, and it is a big reason why 85% of our graduates choose to practice nearby,” said Associate Dean for Health Sciences Sara F. Maher.

Connection drives commitment

With clinical experience at their core, WSU Applebaum’s health professional programs are built on service to others. The hands-on training that is the cornerstone of health professional education can only happen on this scale with a brigade of volunteer practitioners who teach students as they treat their real-world patients. So it’s no surprise that WSU Applebaum students are driven to pay it forward.

“We take pride in serving the health care needs of Detroiters and using our expertise and energy for the greater good,” said Dean Brian Cummings. “Our students become invested in the city through clinical experiences at the world-class hospital systems and practice sites that are literally right outside our doors, and they are eager to do more.”

Mobilizing a healthy Detroit

Founded by Detroit native and acclaimed journalist Mitch Albom in 2006, nonprofit SAY Detroit supports residents with health care and community services. Inside is a WSU Applebaum student-run physical therapy clinic that offers free PT services to medically underserved and uninsured individuals. It’s a win-win: In addition to improving the mobility and activity levels of Detroiters, Wayne State PT students earn clinical experience and leadership skills.

They also serve alongside pharmacy and occupational therapy students in the Diabetes Education and Wellness Clinic, which aims to counter Detroit’s overwhelming diabetes epidemic. For more than a decade, this interdisciplinary, student-run free clinic has empowered Type 2 diabetes patients to gain autonomy in the management of their disease, as well as expand access to health care services.

Operation Immunization

WSU Applebaum student pharmacists are helping the pharmacy profession in the fight against the growing incidence, morbidity and mortality associated with vaccine-preventable diseases by working to increase the percentage of the population receiving immunizations. Through Operation Immunization, they partner with pharmacists, physicians, nurses and other health care professionals to organize outreach events, administer vaccinations and educate the public. These initiatives go a long way to boost the image of pharmacists as accessible health care professionals, and they help students get a jump-start developing interprofessional relationships.

“As a future pharmacist, I want to be a role model for people of color,” said WSU Applebaum student pharmacist Johnie Bailey. “Detroit’s minority communities are not getting immunized at a rate on par with the rest of the population due to vaccine hesitancy, lack of access to transportation, and other socioeconomic factors. Operation Immunization gives me the opportunity to promote equitable access to vaccines and other health care services in and around Detroit.”

Independence in aging: A team effort

Wayne State’s Interprofessional Team Visit program fosters a holistic approach to aging patient care — and interdisciplinary learning for students in myriad health professions. A collaboration between WSU Applebaum pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant studies programs, as well as those in nursing, medicine and social work, IPTV annually serves 450 adults over age 50 in the Detroit area.

During in-person or virtual home visits, a small interprofessional team of students evaluates an older adult’s daily activities, nutrition, family health and social supports, and student pharmacists provide medication recommendations.

Bringing health care to the unhoused

Wayne State’s Community Homeless Interprofessional Program (CHIP) clinic provides care for unhoused Detroiters through a partnership with the city’s Cathedral Church of St. Paul. WSU Applebaum student pharmacists and physical therapists join forces with their peers in medicine and social work to offer health evaluations, education and resource connections, addressing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, respiratory disease, seizure disorders, mental health issues and substance misuse.

CHIP earned an honorable mention in the 2019 Excellence in Interprofessional Education Collaboration National Award competition presented by the United States Public Health Service and the Interprofessional Education Collaborative, an award highlighting the clinic’s significant impact on the health of a community with traditionally unreliable access to care.

Kid stuff

Investing in initiatives that keep children active and aware gives the whole community a boost — and inspires the next generation of health practitioners.

Outside science

Tying her interest in urban sustainability into her PhD program in pharmaceutical sciences, WSU Applebaum student Zoha Siddiqua enlisted the help of Detroit K-12 students to conduct research and build awareness about the city’s environmental spaces and their contaminants. With research advisor Dr. David Pitts, she not only yielded crucial data but inspired local kids to pursue science degrees at Wayne State.

Helping young athletes go for gold

Since 1998, the WSU Applebaum Physician Assistant Studies program has supported Special Olympics by providing pre-sport health appraisals for the mentally and physically challenged population in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. The initiative — orchestrated by Director of Clinical Education Bindiya Nandwana, Clinical Coordinator Corrine Gratson and Program Specialist Cherri Calhoun — has won the program national awards and, more important, has enabled and inspired thousands of young athletes to compete.

Covering the ABCs

Wayne State’s Mu Omicron Pi chapter of Kappa Psi pharmaceutical fraternity hand-delivered donations of childhood literacy kits, school supplies, educational games and books to Auntie Na’s Village, a collection of abandoned houses turned neighborhood haven. At Auntie Na’s Learning House, westside youth are nurtured and supported with after-school tutoring, free clothing, school supplies, toys and summer enrichment programs, activism that inspired Kappa Psi brothers to focus their service on childhood literacy. Brother Fadi Manuel ’22 remembers those who helped his family after they fled Iraq in 2005, saying, “In Syria, we relied on the UN to get school supplies. Being an immigrant myself has made me very grateful to have an opportunity to stand up for people who are currently struggling.”


WSU Applebaum PharmD students involved in the Michigan Antibiotic Resistance Reduction Coalition teach local elementary school students about antibiotics, bacterial and viral infections, and minimizing the spread of germs, taking an engaging approach to this life-and-death subject.

All around the Motor City

WSU Applebaum faculty and students are driven to address health disparities and barriers to care that affect the local communities they serve.

Right down the street

Wayne State student pharmacists volunteered at the Taylor Street Primary Care Clinic health fair, offering free screenings for cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, mental health and HIV. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Taylor Street Clinic,” said Assistant Clinical Professor of Pharmacy Practice Joseph Fava. “Connecting vulnerable communities to health care resources is an important focus of our program.”

Cleaning up

Because pathologists’ assistants are trained in handling biohazardous material, the WSU Applebaum program was tapped by the City of Detroit to help clean up Riverside Park, where specialized skill was necessary for the safety of volunteers because it had been impacted by industrial hazardous waste. The park near the Ambassador Bridge had been closed due to the toxicity of the soil, but the city completed a comprehensive remediation project before reopening the area to the public, who now enjoy sports courts, a skate park, playground equipment and the largest dog park in the city.

Mental health is health

PharmD students in Wayne State’s chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association present on mental health at Vista Maria, a healing resource center that delivers innovative care, treatment, and education to vulnerable youth and families. “Pharmacists play an important role in behavioral health care and helping patients find resources available in their community,” said student pharmacist Joseph Paul Javier. Engaging with the community in this way helps equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to talk with patients about their mental health, another way they can bring out the best in those they serve.

Reaching out

Occupational Therapy Program Director Doreen Head and Regina Parnell, both assistant professors, have nurtured deep roots in Detroit as they’ve worked to create community-based, psychosocial fieldwork opportunities for Wayne State OT students. At Detroit’s Coalition on Temporary Shelter, which provides temporary housing and social services for mothers and their children experiencing homelessness, OT students have the opportunity to assist with delivery and evaluation of an eight-session life skills program focused on emotional coping, social support, self-esteem building and financial management skills. Partnerships like this benefit WSU OT students, community service organizations and the Detroiters who are most in need.

Touchdown for men's health

To reach a typically reluctant patient population, Wayne State physician assistant studies students bring health care to Ford Field, home of Detroit Lions football, for the annual MIU Men’s Health Foundation event. Roughly 1,000 men are seen during the event, receiving free heart health, vision, dental and cancer screenings, bloodwork, vaccinations and more.

On the riverfront

Student pharmacists provide health screenings for community members strolling along the picturesque Detroit Riverwalk, setting up their stations during warm weather months to offer blood pressure screenings and educational conversations about nutrition and common medical issues.

Happy feet, happy bellies

Wayne State physician assistant studies students brought their skills and TLC to Project Happy Feet, which provides unhoused men of Detroit with foot care, haircuts, general checkups and personal care kits.

The initiative is led by the HUDA Clinic, a community health center offering free and low-cost health services for the uninsured and underinsured. The clinic also tends an urban garden. True to their profession’s holistic approach to patient care, PA students put their green thumbs to use helping nurture nutritious, homegrown produce for Detroiters.

PT takes the ice

The Metro Detroit Sled Hockey Team brings the excitement of gliding across the ice to kids and adults with disabilities that prevent them from lacing up skates. WSU Applebaum’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program students and faculty support the organization through fundraising and ice time with the team.

Moment of Zen

WSU Applebaum’s Student Pharmacists Diversity Council hosts outreach events
to fulfill its mission of creating culturally competent providers while addressing health disparities in various communities. Council members recently provided health screenings at the Midwest Buddhist Meditation Center, testing hemoglobin and blood pressure, administering flu shots, and counseling temple members about the importance of immunizations.